At the Carlton, Paladin is in the dining room dancing with a lady friend. Hey Boy comes in with a telegram, and Paladin finally reads it. It's from Guy Lamport, the federal marshal in Hobson, New Mexico, saying that he'll pay Paladin to bring in Little Billy. When the lady wonders why Guy can't find Billy himself, Paladin says that Billy is Guy's son.
Paladin soon arrives in Hobson and the deputy, Jake, tells Guy that he couldn't stall the posse any longer and had to take them out. Guy is going as slow as possible and Paladin should be able to catch up to them shortly
In the hills, the posse has camped out. The members wonder what Guy plans to do, and Guy lays out his plan to split up. One of them, Frank Gulley, says that he's going to go into the mountains and asks if anyone will come along with him. He figures that Guy believes Billy is up there so he'll find him there. Guy says that he'll kill Frank if he kills him. When Frank says that his own boy Bert is shot and he doesn't know if he's alive or dead, Guy punches him.
Paladin rides up and Guy greets him. He explains that Billy shot Frank's boy, and Billy came home and said that he shot in self-defense. Guy said that he had to lock him up anyway, and Billy ran off. Paladin wonders if Guy believes Billy's story, and Guy admits that he doesn't know. Frank claims that he saw the shooting and Billy had no cause. Paladin asks if Guy should bring Billy in, and Guy points out that things could go wrong if the posse shows up, either with Billy or Frank or both. The Marshal explains that there's a spring in the mountains that Billy knows about, and he'll keep the posse away long enough for Paladin to capture the boy. He figures the only chance Billy has is a fair trial, and if he dies then they have nothing but Frank's word.
Jake and the town barber, Howard, ride up. Howard is the nearest thing they have to a doctor in Hobson. They tell Frank that Bert is dead, and Frank demands to know who Paladin is. Paladin says that he's a friend of the family, and Frank figures that the posse has enough family friends. The gunfighter warns him that justice is a two-edged sword, and wonders if Frank would be such an advocate for justice if Bert had shot Billy. Frank tells the posse to mount up, and Paladin rides to the mountains while Guy leads the posse the other way.
Up in the mountains, Paladin approaches the spring. Billy shoots at him and Paladin calls that he wants to talk to him. He rides forward and Billy lets him approach. Billy claims that the rifle jammed on him, and figures that he could shoot Paladin because everyone thinks that he's a mad-dog gunman. Paladin says that Bert died, but he doesn't believe that Billy is no killer. He tells Billy that he could keep on running until someone kills him, and Billy complains that Guy sent Paladin to find Billy. Billy figures that Frank will swear it wasn't self-defense to make sure no one finds out what Bert was really like. Paladin explains that Guy was afraid for Billy, and says that Billy can wait until Frank or some bounty hunter arrives and kills Billy.
As Billy agrees to go with Paladin, Frank shoots him in the shoulder. Paladin gets Billy to cover and yells at Frank to stop shooting. Frank yells at him to come out and Paladin does so. Paladin insists that there was no need to shoot Billy and the boy needs a doctor. Frank points out that there is no town doctor and Howard couldn't save Bert. He wonders what the point is of everything he did for the town when his son is dead. Billy rides off and Paladin tells Frank that they're going to go after Billy and if Billy dies, he's going to kill Frank.
The posse check the trail ahead but find nothing, and head back to their base camp.
Billy rides through the hills, weakening from blood loss.
The posse returns to the base camp and Jake tells Guy that Frank and Paladin headed out toward the mountains. Guy rides out to find Billy.
Paladin and Frank follow Billy's trail. Meanwhile, Billy finally takes cover in the rocks and prepares to shoot his pursuers. He fires a shot into the air instead, and Paladin and Frank take cover. Paladin calls out, saying that he's sending an unarmed Frank up to see Billy. Frank begs Paladin not to do it, just as Guy arrives and demands to know what's going on. Paladin grabs him when he lunges for Frank, and tells Frank to go up to Billy.
Frank tells Billy that he'll tell it, and admits that Bert was no good. He admits that Bert is better off dead, and Guy runs up to Billy. Billy passes out from blood loss.
Later, the posse arrive and Howard tells everyone that Billy will live. He jokingly says that Billy is too mean to die and everyone chuckles. Guy tells Billy that he saw it, and Billy admits that he hasn't already believed his father, either. Paladin goes up to a mourning Frank but can find nothing to say, and rides off.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 13, 2019